Okay, before I start here I am going to be totally honest with you. Some of the following (however good) is very difficult to do in practice. Even if you know that it works (after practice at home alone) it is still very difficult to apply in a real life situation. I am totally aware of this as I have tried most of these things. I will give you all, with an *astrix* my honest opinion on each method as I found them to work (for me) in real life situations.
There are various different techniques which can help in controlling anxiety. They are:
- Mental Games
- Memory object
- Staying busy
- Emergency Relaxation Method
If you dwell on things *like I do* then believe me when I say that dwelling on worries leads to more worries. One way to get short term relief is to create a distraction. If you can distract your attention from the thing/event which is causing you to worry you can break the thought process and thus prevent other problems like:
- Embarrassing sweats.
- Paranoia. (Thinking people are staring at you when in reality they are no!)
- Hyperventilation *This is particularly unpleasant as I know only too well.*
Try to clear your mind as much as possible. Think of a word or phrase i.e. “Clam”; “relax”; “I am in control” or “I am calm”. Close your eyes and repeat the word/phrase you have chosen in your mind over and over. Do this whenever you are anxious by sitting in a quiet, dark room. Don’t allow unwanted thoughts to come into your mind.
*Okay, the recommendation here is for you to sit in a quiet, dark room for about 10 -15 minutes each day. This is the most un-workable thing I found with this method. I have never found that worrying thoughts were cured by a regular time set aside each day to de-worry.
I do however totally recommend using this method if you are in a real panic situation. It does work. I also use this method combined with controlled breathing exercises. Breath in slowly and fill your lungs. Hold the breath and then when you breath out (very slowly) try saying you word or phrase then. Practice this so you are ready if you need it.*
I have chosen two different examples here but you will get the idea. Whatever you find works for you use.
- Count backwards from 100 in sevens – 100, 93, 86 etc. Repeat using other numbers.
- Pick a letter of the alphabet at random and think of the name of e.g.. A town in Britain; a country; a film star; a football team all of which must start with this letter. Repeat this with other letters.
*I have never tried any of these so I don’t know if they work, however try and experiment in the comfort and safety of your home with different methods (even make up your own). Remember that the idea here is to distract your mind from the worrying thought that is affecting you now*
This is anything which reminds you of a happy time e.g. a picture of your children or a holiday snap. Use this object to bring back a pleasant memory. Work hard to then build up as much detail about the memory as possible.
*I use family snaps as well as music and aromatherapy. I go to my bedroom and put on ABBA (I know sad) and burn lavender, orange and Ylang Ylang oils. This creates a very relaxing environment for me. ABBA is used because it totally pre-dates all my problems and so puts me back to a happier and trouble free time (no bad memories to cloud my relaxation).*
If you are more tense when you aren’t doing much, go out for a walk, visit a friend, clean the house are if you are at work find something to occupy yourself.
*I have to be busy all of the time otherwise I get bored and get uptight. I make Airfix models or surf the net in the evening or when I need to do things. I find that the evenings are the worst time fro me.*
Because anxiety fills you full of energy (due to the constant release of adrenalin), one way of reducing this stress is to get rid of the pent-up energy by exercising. There are lots of different ways for you to do this. These are only some:
Any of these will work or if you already have a preferred type of exercise, use that.
One of the great advantages of exercise, is that you get out of the house and it also puts you in situations where you can meet people and hopefully make new friends.
*I really enjoy it when I get out and do some exercise. Unfortunately it is getting out and doing it that gives me the most stress. I am terrified of going out and being put into situations of meeting people I don’t know or being put into situations I can not control.
What I do is I leave it until the last minute and then say to myself… right off to the gym and off I go. That way I don’t think about it. Exercise really does work though and I love the feeling after the event. Try it.”
If you bottle up your feelings, you are building up the pressure inside yourself. Talking to a trusted friend or a loved one can allow you to release this anxiety. In addition, they may be able to give you good advise that you have not thought of yourself.
*Okay, I know what you are going to say. This is impossible. I agree that this is the single most difficult thing to do if you are suffering from PTSD. If you have any friends left or loved ones who are still talking to you then I guess you can give it a try.
I am lucky, I have a loving wife (but no friends). This does not make it any easier to talk to her though. I have at times talked and it really does work but this is still something that I find extremely hard to do. Maybe it will get easier with time.*
Emergency Relaxation Method
When you are getting really worked up:
- Say “Stop” to yourself.
- Breathe in deeply and breathe out slowly. As you do so, drop your shoulders and relax your hands.
- Breathe in deeply again and as you breathe out, make sure your teeth aren’t tight together.
- Take two small quiet breaths.
‘Based on Jane Madders “Stress and Relaxation”, Dunitz, 3rd edition 1981.
*If you combine this with the Mantras as described above it really does work. This is my most preferred and used of all relaxation methods.*